Friday, October 6: I am sorry I have not been able to write for a little bit since our internet was down almost the whole time we were at the hotel in Zimnichea. It has been an interesting week to say the least, really much as we expected. Working with the Roma people is difficult, not because they are unfriendly or difficult people, but because they do little or no planning until the time of the event. Our friend, Bogdan, who is not Roma but is organizing our training, is much like them in this way. He says, “Just have faith” about anything that is not planned yet, to which I responded, “I would like to see less faith and more planning.” Let me describe what I mean. We arrived in the town at 5:30 pm on Sunday night and he then, for the first time, informed us we would be going to a “meeting” at the church. At the church, I learned I would be preaching. A little pre-warning would have been helpful.
The next day, at the training, Bogdan got a call to return to work and said he would not be back. He was our only translator. By God’s grace, our friend Doug, an IM missionary in Romania, came with two interns, one of which is Romanian. Aubi ended up translating for us all week, much to his surprise since he came to learn. There was no other option planned for if Bogdan had to leave. We had even worse problems with a translator for Edie, as she mentioned in her blog entry. But, God did supply in every case exactly what we needed.
One humorous incident happened on the first day. As the men began gathering, about ½ hour before the start time, someone asked if I wanted a coffee. Of course, all this is by gestures, etc., since none of them speak English and I speak no Romanian. I said I did. The machine at the little store next door suddenly broke so no coffee was available for me. A man gestured for me to come with him in his car. So, I figured he wanted me to come get coffee with him. We went to his house, where he showed me around, his chickens and turkeys, etc., and got some money. Then we went downtown, and stopped in a coffee shop. We drank our coffee, once again, all arranged by hand signals and words I didn’t understand, and off we went to the meat store. We stood in line for a half hour, all the time the man asking me what meats I thought we should get, again with hand gestures and a lot of words I did not understand. I had no idea but he kept asking. We finally got our meat, cheese and olives and off we went again, this time to the grocery store for water, bread and other necessities. I looked at my phone, (my watch battery died as we left home for the airport), and saw it was 45 minutes after the training was to start. I struggled with that reminding myself that relationships were much more important right then than timelines. From the grocery store, we went to the vegetable market, finally arriving at the church an hour after the start. Everyone was waiting on the instructor, me, but seemed like they thought this was very normal, which evidently it is.
The training went well, with the men making good progress on learning about observation and context and learning about the meaning of Jonah. But it is hard to tell what impact this will make long term. We will have to see how they do in trying to train others and in preparation for the next workshop. We were a bit disappointed that only 3 or 4 churches were represented. Others were invited but did not come. They feel more will come as they tell them what happened. At any rate, this is our start with Roma training. The need is great with very poor teaching from the pulpit in most churches.
One bright spot was that the area leader for the denomination was present and really is supportive of what we are doing. He seems to be a great guy. The president of the denomination and some of his aides came for a bit on the first day and I am not so sure about him. He said he was supportive but his talk included some subtle warnings to the men not to listen to anything that was not according to their doctrine. One of the men with him was Lulian, a wonderful older pastor we met a year ago and who has a real heart for Roma ministry. We found out then that we would be travelling to Bucharest on Friday to spend some time with him. But once again, we were not given any details about who would take us, what we would do, etc. It turns out that the pastor of the church where we were training brought us last night, Thursday, to Bucharest and we spent the night in a hotel here. (Lulian greeted us with a cold pizza when we arrived, a nice gesture but we went to the store for something else for supper). Today we go to his church, a five-minute walk away, for “meetings.” We do not know what that means, what we will be asked to do, preach, teach or what but it should be interesting. By the way, our internet here works great, outside our room in the hallway.
Today I found out I am preaching 4 times this weekend. One of those was tonight, and I thought it went well. I was sitting there wondering who would translate when a young woman came in and sat down. The pastor went up to her and asked her to translate. Nothing like planning ahead. She was a wonderful young woman (she said she was 40 but didn’t look it), and did a marvelous job at her first time translating. What a blessing and provision. I was followed by another preacher who basically shouted for 20 minutes. I could not hear the translation but Edie said he seemed to counter some of what I said. Then we learned I will be preaching at his church on Sunday. It should be interesting.
I will preach tomorrow at a wedding. Yes, I am the wedding speaker, in a Romanian wedding no less, which I know nothing about. Then I preach Sunday morning at the other preacher’s church and then once again in the evening at the church we were at today. The pastor there is such a sweet man, who loves to stop and pray about nearly everything. We have lots to learn from him.
Still no word on what is going on in the next location. Translators? Who will attend? Will Edie have women to train? Then we head to Germany, where we face at least as much uncertainty. God knows and goes before us.
It will be cold and rainy the next two days. Will we have heat? Will we have umbrellas to get to the church? Yes, you know, it should be interesting. I am reminded of something John Newton once said, “When I hear a knock at the study door, I do not know what I will find. It may be an opportunity for ministry, or, it may be an opportunity for repentance. But either way, it will be interesting.” Amen. I can’t imagine a better life than to be dependent on the Lord who only asks us to go forward, trusting Him to do what He gives us to do.